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P O L I 




Flight of the ^Goeben' 
^ and the ^Breslau' 

An Episode in Naval History 


Admiral Sir A. BERKELEY MILNE, Bt. 

G.CV.O- K,C.B. 



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After the publication in March, 1920, of 
the " Official History of the War : Naval 
Operations, Vol. I.," by Sir Julian S. 
Corbett, I represented to the First Lord 
of the Admiralty that the book contained 
serious inaccuracies, and made a formal 
request that the Admiralty should take 
action in the matter. As the Admiralty 
did not think proper to accede to my 
request, I have thought it right to publish 
the following narrative. 

A. Berkeley Milne. 

January 1921. 
























THE "official" VERSION . 














. 117 






. 185 



. 141 



. 149 





In justice to the public, to the officers 
and men who served under my command, 
and to my own reputation, I have thought 
it right to publish the following narrative 
of the events in the Mediterranean imme- 
diately preceding and following upon the 
outbreak of war, concerning which there 
has been, and is, some unfortunate mis- 

During the war, when secrecy with 
regard to naval operations was necessary, 
it was natural that the public anxiety 
should find expression in conjectures, and 
that false impressions should prevail. I 
select the following passages from Hansard 
as examples : " Hansard (House of Com- 
mons), Sist July, 1916. Escape of the 

Goeben and Breslau (Despatches). 



" Commander Bellairs asked the First 
Lord of the Admiralty, in view of the fact 
that the disasters of the Dardanelles and 
the Baghdad advance are about to be 
inquired into by Commissions, whether he 
is aware that the entry of Turkey into the 
war originated in the escape of the Goeben 
and Breslau from Messina to the Dar- 
danelles in August 1914; and whether 
he can now publish the despatches dealing 
with the matter, together with the dis- 
positions of ships of which the Board of 
Admiralty have expressed their approval ? 

" Dr. Macnamara : The Admiralty have 
hitherto only published despatches which 
deal with actual engagements, and not 
reports on the disposal of His Majesty's 
ships, whether or not those dispositions 
succeeded in bringing about an engage- 
ment. My right hon. friend (the First 
Lord, Mr. Balfour), does not propose to 
depart from this well-established practice. 
He must not be assumed as giving unquali- 
fied concurrence to the view of my hon. 


and gallant friend that the entry of Turkey 
into the war originated with the arrival 
of these two ships at Constantinople. 

" I2th March, 1919. 

"Mr. H. Smith asked the First Lord 
of the Admiralty whether he will lay upon 
the Table of the House the Report of the 
proceedings of the Court of Inquiry which 
inquired into the circumstances attending 
the escape of the Goeben and Breslau, and 
which acquitted Admiral Sir Berkeley 
Milne of all responsibility therefor ? 

^* Dr. Macnamara : As stated in reply 
to a question by my hon. friend the Member 
for Portsmouth North, on the 26th 
February, no Court of Inquiry was held 
in the case of Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne. 
The Admiralty issued a statement on the 
80th August, 1914, to the effect that :— 

" ' The conduct and dispositions of 
Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne in regard to 
the (German vessels Goeben and Breslau 
have been the subject of the careful 


examination of the Board of Admiralty, 
with the result that their Lordships have 
approved the measures taken by him in 
all respects.' " 

These, and other perfectly correct state- 
ments of the Grovemment on the subject, 
did not, however, serve to dispel the 
misapprehensions to which I refer. 

The Gk)vemment have consistently 
refused to publish the documents concern- 
ing the opening of the war in the Mediter- 
ranean, the reason for their refusal being 
that the history of the affair would be 
related in the " Official History " of the 
war, in preparation by Sir Julian Corbett. 
On the 15th November, 1920, for instance, 
the Parliamentary Secretary to the 
Admiralty stated in the House of Commons 
that, " so far as the near future is concerned, 
it is not proposed to publish the docu- 
ments in regard to the escape of the Goeben 
. . . the matter had already been . . . 
dealt with in the * Naval History of the 


It was, therefore, to be expected that 
the facts of the episode in question would 
be impartially set forth in the " Official 
History of the War : Naval Operations," 
by Sir Julian S. Corbett, Vol. I., published 
in March 1920. 

That expectation has not been fulfilled. 
Nor have the Admiralty thought proper 
to take any action to correct the erroneous 
impression which, in my own view, is 
disengaged by the official historian's pre- 
sentation of the case. Indeed, a reference 
to the statement of Sir James Craig, quoted 
above, shows that the Admiralty profess 
to regard the account of the matter written 
by Sir Julian Corbett as an exact version of 
the documents upon which the historian's 
version of them was founded. It is not a 
conclusion I find myself able to accept. 

If, writing as an independent historian, 
Sir Julian Corbett was impelled to criticise 
the conduct of the naval operations by 
the officers in command of them, I should 
hold that the Admirals at sea, being pro- 


fessional seamen, were probably better 
able to judge of the requirements of the 
situation than an amateur on shore, and 
the matter would resolve itself into a 
simple difference of opinion. But the 
case is not so simple as that. Neither 
the Committee of Imperial Defence nor 
the Admiralty can be absolved from a 
definite share in the responsibility for the 
" Official History." 

The First Lord of the Admiralty stated 
on 18th February, 1920, that the " Official 
History '* is being compiled under the 
direction of the Committee of Imperial 
Defence (Hansard, 18th February, 1920). 
The same statement was made by the 
Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty 
on 27th October, 1920 (Hansard). 

The Prime Minister informed the House 
of Commons on 1st November, 1920, that 
" Sir Julian Corbett, I understand, is 
writing the official account of the war 
from the Admiralty point of view " (Hansard, 
1st November, 1920). 


On the cover of the " Official History " 
appear the words " Official History of 
the War." Inside, facing the title-page, 
appears a note, as follows : " The Lords 
Commissioners of the Admiralty have given 
the Author access to official documents 
in the preparation of the work, but they 
are in no way responsible for his reading 
or presentation of the facts as stated." 
The contradiction is obvious. 

Sir Julian Corbett's own account of 
his position is explained by him in the 
following letter, published in " The Nine- 
teenth Century and After," November 
1920, referring to an article by Admiral 
Eardley Wilmot appearing in the previous 
issue : — 


"To the Editor of 'The Nineteenth 

" Sib, 

"In an able and dispassionate 
appreciation of the escape of the Goeben 


appearing in your issue of this month, 
your contributor gives the weight of his 
name to a widely prevailing impression 
which I would beg leave to correct. 

" Referring to the ' Official Naval His- 
tory of the War,' as the main source for 
the facts of the case, he says, ' As regards 
this incident, it has evidently been heavily 
censored.' That such an impression is 
natural, I do not deny, but it is entirely 
untrue. I was given the freest possible 
access to the secret files which contain 
the telegrams that passed between the 
Admiralty and the Admiral, as well as 
to the instructions, logs and the rest, and 
from these sources a narrative was con- 
structed to the best of my ability. After 
being tested for accuracy of detail by senior 
officers who were engaged in the operations, 
it was submitted to the Admiralty, and, 
after careful examination, returned to 
me, with a few suggestions as to the 
wording of certain passages. Beyond 
this, no * censoring ' took place, and 


the tenour of the comments remained 

" The narrative was not censored at 
all, nor was any telegram relating to opera- 
tions ignored or misrepresented in the 

" In regard to this episode — ^and indeed 
to the whole volume — I can only look upon 
the Admiralty * censoring,' such as it was, 
as frank assistance in securing an accurate, 
full and impartial record of what occurred, 
" Yours obediently, 
" (Sgd.) Julian S. Corbett." 

My italics. — A. B. M. 

It will be observed that Sir Julian 
Corbett, while denying that the Admiralty 
" censored " his account of the matter, 
definitely states that it was submitted to 
the Admiralty, and that their Lordships 
made " a few suggestions as to the word- 
ing of certain passages." He adds that 
" the tenour of the comments remained 


It is, therefore, clear, first, that the 
Admiralty reserve to themselves the right 
to suggest alterations in the text ; second, 
that, in the case under consideration, their 
Lordships made no such alterations in 
" the tenour of the comments." It is 
the ** tenour of the comments " to which 
I take grave exception. " I can only 
look upon the Admiralty * censoring,' 
such as it was,'* writes Sir Julian, "as 
frank assistance in securing an accurate, 
full and impartial record of what occurred." 
It is a view with which I regret I cannot 
agree. Sir Julian Corbett further states 
that his narrative was " tested for accuracy 
of detail by senior officers who were engaged 
in the operations." That is a statement 
I am quite unable to understand. I was 
Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean 
at the period in question; I came home 
in August 1914; and neither then nor 
subsequently did Sir Julian Corbett com- 
municate with me. I did not see his 
account of the episode until the " Official 


History " was published in March 1920. I 
regard it as extremely unfortunate (at 
least) that Sir Julian Corbett should per- 
mit himself to assert, or to imply, that his 
narrative was submitted to me before 
publication. After the publication of the 
book, I called upon Sir Julian, and, 
expressing my regret that he had not 
consulted me, when I should have had 
great pleasure in giving him all the assist- 
ance in my power to obtain accurate 
information, I asked him why he had not 
availed himself of my services. Sir Julian 
was, however, unable to afford me any 
explanation of his failure to do so. 

According to the statements of IVIinisters, 
Sir Julian Corbett is compiling his history 
" under the directions of the Committee 
of Imperial Defence," and "from the 
Admiralty point of view." Whether or 
not it is possible logically to reconcile 
Sir Julian's own account of his position, 
with the official definitions of it, the public 
will, I think, agree that it is the duty of 


the Committee of Imperial Defence, and 
of the Board of Admiralty, who are jointly 
responsible for the " Official History," 
to protect from aspersion the reputation 
of His Majesty's officers. 

The Prime Minister stated on 1st Novem- 
ber that " the preparation of the history 
is a charge on the Treasury Vote for the 
Committee of Imperial Defence, to whom 
Sir Julian Corbett is responsible as author '* 
(Hansard, 1st November, 1920). The cost 
of the " Official History," therefore, is 
defrayed out of public money; and the 
public have the right to demand that the 
Committee of Imperial Defence should 
ensure accuracy and impartiality in official 
publications for which the Committee are 

In the case under consideration, there 
is presented the curious anomaly of a 
narrative, the proofs of which were passed, 
*' with a few suggestions," by the Admiralty 
but of which the " tenour of the comments" 
contradicts the statement of the Admiralty, 


published by the Board on 30th August, 
1914, and read to the House of Commons 
by the Parliamentary Secretary to the 
Admiralty on 12th March, 1919, that " the 
conduct and dispositions of Admiral Sir 
Berkeley Milne in regard to the German 
vessels Goeben and Breslau have been the 
subject of the careful examination of the 
Board of Admiralty, with the result that 
their Lordships have approved the measures 
taken by him in all respects." 

In what that conduct and those dis- 
positions and measures consisted, it is my 
purpose to relate in the following pages. 




At the end of July 1914, the force under 
my command in the Mediterranean con- 
sisted of the three battle cruisers of the 
Second Battle Cruiser Squadron, the four 
armoured cruisers of the First Cruiser 
Squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral 
C. T. Troubridge, four light cruisers and 
fourteen destroyers.^ 


Commander-in-Chief: Admiral Sir A. Berkeley 
Milne, Bt., G.C.V.O., K.C.B.; Chief of Staff: 
Commodore Richard F. PhilUmore, C.B., M.V.O. 

Second Battle Cruiser Squadron 
Inflexible (8-12^), flag of C.-in-C. 

Captain Arthur N. Loxley. 
Indefatigable (8-12"). 

Captain Charles F. Sowerby. 
Indomitable (8-12"). 

Captain Francis W. Kennedy. 


In order that the situation in the Mediter- 
ranean may be understood, it is necessary 
to indicate the relative strength in effective 
heavy ships of the other naval Powers 
in July 1914. France, shortly to become 
our Ally, possessed one Dreadnought, six 
" Dantons " and five other battleships. 

First Cruiser Squadron 
Rear-Admiral C. T. Troubridge, C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O. 

Defence (4-9-2', 10-7-5'), flag of R.-A. 

Captain Fawcet Wray. 
Black Prince (6-9-2', 10-6'). 

Captain Frederick D. Gilpin- Brown. 
Duke of Edinburgh (6-9-2', 10-6'). 

Captain Henry Blackett. 
Warrior (6-9-2', 4-7-5'). 

Captain George H. Borrett, 

Light Cruisers 
Chatham (8-6'). 

Captain Sidney R. Drury-Lowc. 
Dublin (8-6'). 

Captain John D. Kelly. 
Gloucester (2-6', 10-4'). 

Captain W. A. Howard Kelly, M.V.O. 
Weymouth (8-6'). 

Captain William D. Church. 


Austria-Hungary, a member of the Triple 
Alliance, possessed three Dreadnoughts 
and three other battleships. Italy, also 
a member at that time of the Triple 
Alliance, possessed three Dreadnoughts, 
and four other battleships. Germany had 
placed the Goeben, battle cruiser, and the 
BreslaUy light cruiser, in the Mediterranean. 
In respect of heavy ships, therefore, the 
position was :— • 


. la - 

Germany . , 

. . 1 

Great Britain 


Austria . 

. . 6 

Italy . . 

. . 7 

15 14 

But a numerical comparison affords 
only a partial indication of the real position. 
Opposing navies are very seldom all in 
one place at one time. A squadron of 
one fleet may be attacked by the full 
strength of another fleet. France, if 
required to deal with Austria, might have 
been outnumbered by the accession of 
Italy. The three battle cruisers of Great 


Britain were liable to be hopelessly pver- 
whelmed by either Austria or Italy. 

At the end of July 1914, when war 
was expected, the possibility that both 
Austria and Italy would join Germany 
must be considered, and the instructions 
which I received from the Admiralty were 
framed in accordance with that contin- 
gency. Whether or not the possibility 
was considered that the Ottoman Empire 
would side with Germany, was not known 
to me. In June, I had visited Constanti- 
nople in Infleccible. At that date, mines 
had already been laid in the Straits of the 
Dardanelles ; and, in following the channel, 
we were brought within close range of 
the shore batteries. 

In Constantinople, I was received with 
the greatest courtesy by the authorities, 
who did their utmost to make my visit 
pleasant. H.M. the Sultan honoured me, 
together with the officers of my staff, with 
an invitation to dine at Yildiz Kiosk, upon 
which occasion the Grand Vizier and all 


the Ministers were present, except Enver 
Pasha, who was absent from Constanti- 
nople. I went to see the Royal stables, 
and visited an Anatolean Cavalry Regi- 
ment. H.R.H. the Crown Prince came 
on board the flagship, H.M.S. Inflexible, 
His Royal Highness had not visited the 
Goeben, when, a few months before. Admiral 
Souchon's flagship was at Constantinople. 
I mention these incidents of our reception, 
because (among others) they gave no sug- 
gestion of anti-English sympathies on the 
part of Turkish officials, but rather indi- 
cated most friendly feelings towards Great 

I was asked to inspect the Turkish crew 
which was on the point of leaving to take 
over the battleship built in England for 
Turkey. They arrived in England, but 
their ship, together with another vessel 
also built for Turkey, was acquired by 
Great Britain. These deprivations prob- 
ably exercised a considerable effect on 
Turkish opinion; for the ships had been 


built by subscription, and their arrival 
was eagerly expected by the Turkish 
Ministers, and especially by Djemal Pasha, 
Minister of Marine, who had intended to 
go to England and to return in one of 
the new vessels. 





Such was the general situation in the 
Mediterranean when, on 27th July, 1914, 
I received from the Admiralty the pre- 
liminary telegram of warning. On that 
day, the greater part of the British Fleet 
was at Alexandria, in accordance with the 
cruising arrangements. At Alexandria 
were two battle cruisers, Inflexible (flag) 
and Indefatigable, two armoured cruisers, 
Warrior and Black Prince, four light 
cruisers and thirteen destroyers. Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge, flying his flag in 
the armoured cruiser Defence, with the 
destroyer Grampics, was at Durazzo in the 
Adriatic in accordance with Admiralty 
orders. There also were the French cruiser 
Edgar Quinet and the (German light cruiser 
Breslau, These vessels represented the 
various Powers supporting the international 



conference then assembled at Scutari for 
the purpose of settling the affairs of Albania. 
The battle cruiser Indomitable was at 
Malta, where her annual refit had just 
begun, a point to remember in relation 
to the sequel. The armoured cruiser Duke 
of Edinburgh was also at Malta, where her 
annual refit had just been completed. 
The Goeben, flagship of Admiral Souchon, 
was then at the Austrian port of Pola, 
where she had been refitted, and the Breslau 
(as it has been said) was also in the Adriatic 
at Durazzo. 

Immediately upon receiving the pre- 
liminary telegram of warning on 27th 
July, I sent instructions to the Admiral 
Superintendent at Malta to take all requisite 
precautions against attack. Ships at Malta 
were to be prepared for sea, coal and 
stores for the Fleet were to be in readiness. 
A telegram was sent to Rear-Admiral 
Troubridge at Durazzo to take all requisite 
precautions against attack. The Fleet 
sailed from Alexandria on the 28th July. 


On 29th July the Fleet arrived at Malta. 
By the afternoon of Saturday, 1st August, 
the Fleet was in every respect ready for 

Late in the evening of 29th July I 
received the warning telegram. On the 
same date the Admiralty recalled the 
Defence, flagship of Rear-Admiral Trou- 
bridge, and the Grampus from Durazzo to 
Malta. On 30th July, in accordance with 
Admiralty instructions, the P. and O. 
s.s. Osiris was ordered to bring British 
troops from Scutari to Malta. The Osiris 
was subsequently converted into an 
auxiliary cruiser. 

At eight o'clock on the evening of 30th 
July, I received the telegram from the 
Admiralty indicating the political situation 
and containing my instructions. The com- 
munication is summarised in the " Official 
History of the War : Naval Operations," 
by Sir Julian Corbett (Vol. I., p. 34), as 
follows : — 

Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne "was in- 


formed of the general situation and what 
he was to do in the case of war. Italy 
would probably be neutral, but he (Admiral 
Milne) was not to get seriously engaged 
with the Austrian Fleet till her (Italy's) 
attitude was declared." 

Sir Julian Corbett's summary of my 
instructions is sufficiently accurate so far 
as it goes. The phrase " what he was to do 
in the case of war," however, may not be 
clearly understood by the public. As 
Commander-in-Chief, I had in my posses- 
sion written instructions given to me by the 
Admiralty. It was in the discretion of 
the Admiralty to direct me to proceed in 
accordance with those instructions, or 
to telegraph new orders varying them. 
In the event of my receiving no new orders, 
the written instructions stood. It is, of 
course, conceivable that circumstances 
might arise in which an Admiral's judgment 
of what ought to be done would conflict 
with his orders. As the contingency did 
not, in fact, occur in my own case, there 


is no need to discuss the point. I wish 
to make it quite clear from the beginning 
that the question whether the dispositions 
ordered by the Admiralty would in all 
cases have been my dispositions had they 
been left to my discretion, does not arise. 

Sir Julian Corbett proceeds as follows : 
" His (Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne's) first 
task, he was told, should be to assist the 
French in transporting their African Army, 
and this he could do by taking up a cover- 
ing position, and endeavouring to bring 
to action any fast German ship, particu- 
larly the Goeben, which might try to inter- 
fere with the operation. He was further 
told not to be brought to action in this 
stage against superior forces unless it was 
in a general engagement in which the 
French forces were taking part." 

Reference to the map of the Mediter- 
ranean will make clear the strategic posi- 
tion. In the Western Mediterranean the 
French Fleet was to protect the passage 
of the French African Army from the 


ports of Algeria to Toulon. In the Eastern 
Mediterranean were the Goeben and Breslau, 
immediately dangerous; the Austrian 
Fleet, a potential danger; and the Italian 
Fleet, doubtfully neutral. Between the 
Western and the Eastern Mediterranean 
open two gates ; one, the narrow Strait of 
Messina, the other, the wide channel 
between Cape Bon on the African coast 
and Marsala in Sicily. Midway in the 
channel are placed Malta, the headquarters 
of the British Fleet, and, further west, 
the Island of Pantellaria. The Fleet under 
my command, therefore, was placed 
between the French Fleet and hostile 
intervention from the Eastern sea. There 
were two Powers to consider, Austria and 
Italy; and two G^erman ships to watch, 
one of which, the Goeben, was faster than 
any other vessel of the same class in the 
Mediterranean. For all purposes, the force 
at my disposal consisted of three battle 
cruisers, four armoured cruisers, four light 
cruisers and small craft. 


On 31st July, I informed the Admiralty 
that I considered it necessary to concen- 
trate all my available forces, and that I 
could not at first provide protection to 
trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. Sir 
Julian Corbett (" Official History," I. 34), 
states with regard to my dispositions at 
this time : " Considering it unsafe to 
spread his cruisers for the protection of 
the trade routes, he contented himself 
with detaching a single light cruiser, the 
Chatham (Captain Drury-Lowe), to watch 
the south entrance of the Strait of Messina." 
The obvious inference to be drawn from 
this passage is unfortunate. The disposi- 
tion of cruisers was not a question of safe 
or unsafe, nor whether the Commander- 
in-Chief was " contented " or not. It was 
a question of strategic and tactical require- 
ments, whose fulfilment was approved by 
the Board of Admiralty. Moreover, Sir 
Julian Corbett is in error in stating that the 
Chatham was despatched on 30th July. 
She did not leave Malta until 2nd August. 


On 31st July, Defence (flag of Rear- 
Admiral) and Grampus arrived at Malta 
from Durazzo. On the same day, in 
accordance with Admiralty orders, the 
Black Prince was ordered to Marseilles to 
embark Earl Kitchener. The order was 
cancelled on 2nd August, and the Black 
Prince returned to Malta, arriving there 
on 8rd August. 

On Saturday, 1st August, the Admiralty 
ordered the Examination Service to be put 
in force. Instructions were given to get 
the boom defence at Malta into position. 
By this date the whole Fleet was concen- 
trated at Malta. 

On Sunday, 2nd August, I received in- 
formation that the Goehen had been coaling 
at Brindisi on the previous day. The 
Admiralty informed me that the situation 
was very critical. Later in the day I 
received from the Admiralty instructions 
summarised in the " Official History '* (I. 
85), as follows : " Then, in the afternoon, 
came further orders which overrode the 


disposition he had decided on. Informing 
him that Italy would probably remain 
neutral, the new instructions directed that 
he was to remain at Malta himself, but to 
detach two battle cruisers to shadow the 
Goeben, and he was also to watch the 
approaches to the Adriatic with his cruisers 
and destroyers." 

In accordance with these instructions, 
Rear-Admiral Troubridge left Malta the 
same evening with the battle cruisers 
Indomitable and Indefatigable, the three 
armoured cruisers, Defence, Warrior, Duke 
of Edinburgh, the light cruiser Gloucester, 
and eight destroyers. 

The two battle cruisers were attached 
to the Rear- Admiral's squadron in accord- 
ance with the Admiralty instructions " to 
detach two battle cruisers to shadow the 
Goeben." The rest of the Rear- Admiral's 
force, in accordance with the Admiralty 
instructions, was ordered to watch the 
mouth of the Adriatic. Thus Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge left Malta with two 



separate forces, each allotted to a particular 
purpose by the Admiralty. The light 
cruiser Chatham went to search for the 
G^erman ships in the Strait of Messina. 
Four destroyers went to patrol the Malta 






Upon the same evening, Sunday, 2nd 
August, I received permission from the 
Admiralty to communicate with the French 
Senior Officer. All attempts to communi- 
cate with him by wireless having failed, 
on the following (Monday) evening, I 
despatched the Dublin light cruiser to 
Bizerta with a letter addressed to the French 
Admiral. It will be observed that upon 
the very eve of war, it had proved impos- 
sible to make any arrangements with the 
French Naval Forces, with which I had 
been instructed to work, and hostile 
interference with which I had been in- 
structed to prevent. It is stated in the 
" Official History " (I. 85), that " the fact 
was, there had been a delay in getting the 
fleet to sea. By the time-table of the war 



plan it should have been covering the 
Algerian coasts by August 1, but so 
anxious, it is said, were the French to 
avoid every chance of precipitating a 
conflict, that sailing orders were delayed 
till the last possible moment. . . . What- 
ever the real cause, it was not until 
daybreak on August 8rd that Admiral 
de Lapeyr^re put to sea, with orders *to 
watch the German cruiser Goeben and 
protect the transport of the French African 
troops '." 

But of these matters I was necessarily 
ignorant at the time. I knew nothing 
of the French naval dispositions, except 
that, in. whatever they consisted, it was 
my duty to assist in protecting the trans- 
port of the French African Army. I was 
not informed of the dispositions of Admiral 
de Lapeyr^re ; I received no reply to wire- 
less calls; and on Monday, 3rd August, 
I despatched the light cruiser Dvhlin to 
Bizerta, carrying a letter for the French 
Admiral at that port. 


As the " Official History " records, 
Admiral Boue de Lapeyr^re put to sea 
on the same day at 4 a.m. The French 
Fleet was formed into three squadrons; 
the first consisting of six battleships of the 
Danton type, three armoured cruisers and 
a flotilla of twelve destroyers ; the second 
consisting of six battleships, three armoured 
cruisers and a flotilla of twelve destroyers ; 
the third consisting of four older battle- 
ships. Thus, for covering the passage 
of their African Army from Algeria to 
Toulon, there was provided a force of 
sixteen battleships, six armoured cruisers 
and twenty-four destroyers. At the 
moment it sailed from Toulon, " Germany 
had not yet declared war, the attitude of 
Italy remained doubtful, and it was quite 
unknown whether Great Britain would 
come into the war or not." ('* Official 
History," I. 59.) 




I NOW return to the events of Sunday, 
2nd August. As already stated, on the 
evening of that day Rear-Admiral Trou- 
bridge sailed for the entrance to the 
Adriatic with two battle cruisers, three 
ships of the First Cruiser Squadron, the 
light cruiser Gloucester and eight destroyers ; 
and later in the day I received information 
that the Goeben had been coaling at 

At 5.12 p.m. the Chatham (Captain 
Sidney R. Drury-Lowe), had sailed from 
Malta with instructions to search for the 
Goeben in the Strait of Messina, and sub- 
sequently to join the Rear-Admiral's 

Four destroyers were patrolling the Malta 



Channel. My force at Malta was thus 
reduced to the battle cruiser Inflexible 
(flag), two light cruisers and small craft. 
According to Admiralty instructions, the 
Black Prince, then on her way to Marseilles 
to embark Earl Kitchener, was recalled 
to Malta, where she arrived early on 
Monday, 3rd August. 

On Monday, 3rd August, at 4 a.m. I 
received further instructions from the 
Admiralty. These are described by Sir 
Julian Corbett (" Official History," I. 54), 
as follows : " About 1 a.m. on August 3rd, 
to give further precision to their orders, 
the Admiralty directed that the watch 
on the mouth of the Adriatic was to be 
maintained, but that the Goeben was the 
main objective, and she was to be shadowed 
wherever she went." Sir Julian Corbett *s 
comment on his version of the telegram is 
that, " Taking this as a repetition of the 
previous order which instructed him to 
remain near Malta himself. Admiral Milne 
stayed where he was and left the shadowing 


to Admiral Troubridge." Here, again, 
the implication is inaccurate. Sir Julian 
Corbett implies that I was acting upon an 
assumption. Although, as he states, Sir 
Julian Corbett had access to all telegrams, 
and therefore he must have read my tele- 
gram to the Admiralty of the previous 
day (2nd August), Sir Julian Corbett 
neither mentions the telegram nor the fact 
that in the telegram I expressly submitted 
to their Lordships that my tactical dis- 
positions required my remaining at Malta 
for the time being. The Admiralty reply 
of the following day was, therefore, both 
a definite confirmation of my proposed 
dispositions together with additional in- 
structions concerning them; and I acted, 
not upon an assumption but, upon orders.) 
These instructions were of the greatest 
moment. The significant clause was "... 
but Goehen is your objective." That order 
clearly indicated that two immediate 
objects were to be pursued simultaneously : 
the watch upon Austria and Italy in the 


Adriatic, and the watch upon the Goeben ; 
and that, of the two, the watch upon the 
Goeben was the more important. There 
were also to be fulfilled the earlier instruc- 
tions : that I was to protect the transport 
of the French African Army, and to avoid 
being brought to action by superior forces. 
The order to protect the French transports 
was, in fact, covered by the order to watch 
Italy, Austria and the two German ships. 
The contingency of being confronted by 
superior forces, did it occur, must have 
involved the subordination of all other 
considerations, for the only way of avoiding 
action is to retreat. 

At 4 a.m. on that Monday morning, 
3rd August, I received the Admiralty 
instructions. At the same time, although 
I knew nothing of it, the French Fleet 
sailed from Toulon for the Algerian coast. 

At 7 a.m., the Chatham reported that 
neither the Goeben nor the Breslau was in 
the Strait of Messina. At the same time 
I received information that Goeben and 
ffreslau had been sighted early on the 


previous (Sunday) morning off Cape Trion, 
the southern horn of the Gulf of Taranto, 
heading south-west. It therefore appeared 
that the two German ships had escaped 
from the Adriatic. In order both to 
maintain the watch on the Adriatic and to 
find Goehen and Breslau, at about 8.30 a.m. 
I ordered Rear- Admiral Troubridge, whose 
squadron was then about midway between 
Cape Spartivento, Italy, and Cape Passero, 
Sicily, to send the light cruiser Gloucester 
and the eight destroyers to the mouth of 
the Adriatic, while the rest of his squadron 
was to pass south of Sicily and to the 
westward. The light cruiser Chatham was 
ordered to pass westward along the north 
coast of Sicily. The light cruisers Dublin 
and Weymouth were set to watch the Malta 
Channel. These dispositions were made 
in case the German ships should endeavour 
to pass westward, and they were reported 
to the Admiralty. 

At 1.30 p.m. I made further dispositions. 
Rear-Admiral Troubridge was instructed 
to proceed to the mouth of the Adriatic 


with the First Cruiser Squadron to support 
the Gloucester and the destroyers there, 
and Black Prince was ordered to rejoin the 
Cruiser Squadron. The two battle cruisers 
Indomitable and Indefatigable were ordered 
to proceed through the Malta Channel 
and thence westward to search for Goeben^ 
in accordance with the original Admiralty 
instructions allocating these two ships 
for that purpose. At the same time the 
Senior Naval Officer at Gibraltar was 
requested to keep a close watch for Goeben 
and Breslau in case they passed the Strait. 
At 5 p.m., as I had failed to establish 
communication with the French either 
at Toulon or Bizerta, I despatched the 
light cruiser Dublin to Bizerta, with a 
letter to the French Admiral. I did not, 
of course, know that by that time the 
French Fleet, steaming at 12 knots, 
had been at sea for eleven hours. It 
appears that the British Admiralty were 
also ignorant of the sailing of the French 
Fleet, for it is stated in the " Official 
History " (I. 55), that " organised con- 


nection between the British and French 
Admiralties had not yet been established." 
The Admiralty were, therefore, anxious 
lest the two German ships should escape 
into the Atlantic. There was never the 
least suggestion that they might escape 
elsewhere. My own impression that the 
(Germans would turn westward was con- 
firmed by a report that a German collier 
was waiting at Majorca. 

At 6.30 p.m. in Inflexible, I left Malta to 
take up a watching position in the Malta 
Channel, together with the light cruiser 
Weymouth, the torpedo -gunboat Hussar 
and three destroyers. At 8.30 p.m. I re- 
ceived instructions from the Admiralty to 
send two battle cruisers to Gibraltar at high 
speed to prevent the Goeben from leaving 
the Mediterranean. Indomitable and Inde- 
fatigable were already on their way west- 
ward, and they were ordered to proceed 
at 22 knots to Gibraltar. The ChMhamy 
which was then rounding Sicily, and which 
had nothing to report, was ordered to 
Malta to coal. 


On Tuesday, 4th August, then, the posi- 
tion was as follows : Inflexible (flag), with 
Weymouth and small craft, was patrolling 
the Malta Qiannel; Rear- Admiral Trou- 
bridge, with the First Cruiser Squadron, 
was about midway between Malta and the 
mouth of the Adriatic, on his way to rein- 
force the Gloucester and the destroyers; 
the light cruiser Dublin had gone to 
Bizerta, with a letter for the French 
Admiral; Chatham was coaling in ^lalta; 
and the two battle cruisers. Indomitable, 
Captain Francis W. Kennedy (in conunand). 
Indefatigable, Captain Charles F. Sowerby, 
were steaming westward at 22 knots. 

Where were the Goeben and Breslaut 
No one knew. At 7 ajn. on Monday, the 
Chatham had reported they were not in 
the Strait of Messina. It was now Tuesday. 
The fact was, they had passed the Strait 
during the night of Sunday 2nd— Monday 
8rd, ahead of the Chatham, 

At 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 4th August, I 
received information that^Bona had been 
bombarded by theGerman ships. 


At 9.82 a.m. Indomitable and Indefcdig- 
abUy off Bona, on the Algerian coast, 
sighted the Goeben and Breslau, which 
were steering to the eastward. 

" The Goeben was seen at once to alter 
course to port, and Captain Kennedy 
altered to starboard in order to close, but 
the Goeben promptly turned away, and in 
a few minutes the two ships were passing 
each other on opposite courses at 8,000 
yards. Guns were kept trained fore and 
aft, but neither side saluted, and after 
passing, Captain Kennedy led roimd in 
a wide circle and proceeded to shadow the 
Goeben, with his two ships on either quarter. 
The Breslau made off to the northward 
and disappeared, and early in the after- 
noon could be heard calling up the Cagliari 
wireless stations." (" Official History," I. 

Had a state of war then existed, it is 
probable there would have been a very 
different end to that meeting. 

At 10.30 a.m. Dublin arrived at 
Bizerta, and at my orders she left at once 


to join Indomitable in shadowing the 
Gterman ships, which were steering east- 
ward, on a course lying north of the 
Sicilian coast, towards Messina. During 
the afternoon, Dublin joined Indomitable 
and Indefatigable at a point north of 
Bizerta. In the meantime, Goeben and 
Breslau, steaming at their utmost speed, 
were drawing away from the British battle 
cruisers, which presently lost sight of 
the German ships. The Dublin picked 
them up about 5 p.m., and kept them in 
sight until nearly 10 p.m., when she lost 
them off the Cape San Vito, on the north 
coast of Sicily, and turned back to rejoin 
the battle cruisers. The Goeben had 
recently been refitted at Pola, while 
Indomitable had only just been docked for 
repair when the warning telegram arrived. 
During the day Inflexible (flag), with 
a division of destroyers, keeping within 
visual signalling distance of Castille (Malta), 
waited in the Malta Channel for informa- 
tion and instructions from the Admiralty. 
At 8.15 p.m., as already stated, I received 


information from the French Admiral at 
Bizerta that the Goeben had bombarded 
Bona and that the Breslau had bombarded 
Philippe ville, on the Algerian coast . What 
had happened (as we now know), was that 
the (Jerman vessels, upon leaving Messina 
on the night of 2nd-3rd August, made a 
descent upon Bona and Philippeville in 
order to interfere with the transport of 
the Eastern Division of the French 
XlXth Army Corps. According to the 
"Official History" (I. 55-56), Admiral 
Souchon, at 6 p.m. on the 3rd August, 
learned that war had been declared, but 
he received no orders until midnight, 
when he was instructed to proceed with 
Goeben and Breslau to Constantinople. 
" Long afterwards," writes Sir Julian Cor- 
bett, " it became known that on the follow- 
ing day (4th August) the K!aiser informed 
the Greek Minister that an alliance had 
been concluded between Gtermany and 
Turkey, and that the German warships 
in the Mediterranean were to join the 
Turkish Fleet and act in concert." 


That is an affair of diplomacy upon 
which I make no comment. It is certain 
at least that I received no information 
of any such arrangement, nor, according to 
the "Official History," had the British 
authorities any knowledge of that most 
momentous treaty. All that we knew 
in the Mediterranean was that the two 
German ships steered eastward on the 4th 
August. Germany was then at war with 
France, but not with England. 

At 5 p.m. on 4th August, about the time 
when the two battle cruisers lost sight 
of the Goeben, I received authority from 
the Admiralty to engage the German 
vessels should they attack the French 
transports. The occasion did not arise, 
and the order was cancelled in the sub- 
sequent telegram received two hours later, 
informing me that the British ultimatum 
presented to Germany would expire at 




At 6 p.m. on the same day, Tuesday, 
4th August, I received a telegram from 
the Admiralty which seriously altered the 
strategic situation. I was informed that 
Italy had declared strict neutrality, which 
was to be rigidly respected, and that no 
ship of war was to pass within six miles of 
the Italian coast. The effect of the order 
was to bar the Strait of Messina, presum- 
ably to both belhgerents, certainly to 
British ships. If the Goeben and Breslau 
entered the Strait, they could not be 
followed. They might break back west- 
ward or they might turn south through 
the Strait, and then either turn eastward 
to the Adriatic, or west through the channel 
between Africa and Sicily. 

In these new circumstances I ordered 



Chatham and Weymouth to patrol the 
channels between the African coast and 
Pantellaria Island and between Pantellaria 
Island and the coast of Sicily, in case the 
German ships should turn south; while, 
further north, Indomitable and Indefatig- 
able, and, later, Dublin patrolled between 
Sicily and Sardinia, in case the German 
ships should turn west again. 

At 7 p.m. I received a telegram from 
the Admiralty informing me that the 
British ultimatum to Gtermany would 
expire at midnight, and that no acts of 
war should be committed before that 

It was now necessary to make new dis- 
positions in accordance with my orders. 
The neutraUty of Italy having been de- 
clared, I was relieved of responsibility 
with regard to the Italian Fleet. But it 
was still of course necessary to watch the 
Adriatic, both in case the German ships 
tried to enter that sea and in case the 
Austrian Fleet sailed. But my first duty 


was the protection of the French trans- 
ports from the Goeben and the Breslau, 

Now the Goeben had shown herself to 
be at least three knots faster than the 
British battle cruisers. The superiority 
in speed of the enemy necessarily governed 
all my dispositions. For the benefit of 
the lay reader it should here be explained 
that it is useless to try to overtake a 
ship which is faster than her pursuer. 
The chase merely continues until fuel is 
exhausted. Therefore, in order to catch 
a ship which is superior in speed to her 
pursuers, it is necessary that the faster 
ship should be intercepted by crossing her 
course. That manoeuvre was performed by 
Indomitable and Indefatigable on Tuesday, 
4th August, when they were at one time 
within 8,000 yards of Goeben. 

That pursuing ships must be so disposed 
as to cut off the faster ship pursued, is 
an elementary maxim in tactics which the 
author of the " Official History " strangely 


In disposing my forces to prevent the 
Goeben and Breslau going westward, it 
was therefore necessary to arrange, not 
to chase but, to intercept, the enemy. 
At any moment the (Germans might try 
to break westwards, in which case there 
were three courses open to them. They 
might (1) pass north of Corsica; or (2) 
through the Strait of Bonifacio between 
Corsica and Sardinia; or (3) south of 
Sardinia between Sardinia and the African 
coast. I considered that the German ships 
would avoid both the north of Corsica 
and the Strait of Bonifacio, for fear of 
French cruisers, destroyers and submsirines. 
In all probabiUty they would, therefore, 
try to pass south of Sardinia, and thence 
to Majorca, where a German collier was 
waiting at Palma. 

In these circvunstances, Rear-Admiral 
Troubridge was ordered, on Tuesday, 
4th August, to detach Glotccester to watch 
the southern end of the Strait of Messina, 
into which, it will be remembered, British 


ships of war were forbidden to go. Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge, with four armoured 
cruisers and eight destroyers was to con- 
tinue to watch the mouth of the Adriatic. 
The two battle cruisers (except Gloiuxster) 
and three destroyers were ordered to join 
my flag off Pantellaria Island at 11 a.m. 
on the following day, 5th August. These 
dispositions were communicated to the 
Admiralty at 8.30 p.m. 4th August. 

At fifteen minutes past one, 5th August, 
on the night of 4th-5th August, I received 
the order to commence hostilities against 
Germany. I was then in the Malta 
Channel, and left at once in Inflexible, 
with three destroyers. At about 11 
a.m. on 5th August, Inflexible (flag). 
Indomitable, Indefatigable, Dttbliuy Wey- 
mouth, Chatham and three destroyers were 
assembled off Pantellaria Island, midway 
in the channel between the African coEist 
and Sicily. Dublin was sent back to Malta, 
there to coal and thence to proceed with 
two destroyers to join Rear- Admiral Trou- 


bridge at the mouth of the Adriatic. 
Indomitable and three destroyers went into 
Bizerta to coal. Inflexible (flag) with 
Indefatigable, Chatham and Weymouth, 
patrolled on a line northward from Bizerta, 
being thus disposed to intercept the 
(Jerman ships should they attempt to 
escape westwards. 

At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 5th August, 
the Grerman ships were reported to be 
coaling at Messina. 




It is at this point in the series of events, 
as related in the " Official History," that 
the following comment is made by the 
official historian. After quoting from my 
despatch to the Admiralty, Sir Julian 
Corbett observes : " Nevertheless, he had 
left the line of attack from Messina open, 
but, apart from this serious defect in his dis- 
positions,^ they were in accordance with his 
original instructions. The order that the 
French transports were to be his first care had 
not been cancelled, though, in fact, there was 
now no need for him to concern himself with 
their safety." (" Official History," I. 58.) 

I do not propose to discuss my disposi- 
tions with Sir Julian Corbett ; but I would 
observe that the official historian states 
that, in making them, I had departed from 

1 My italics.— A. B. M. 


my original instructions, and that the 
result of that departure was a "serious 
defect." I do not understand what Sir 
Julian means when he asserts that the 
line of attack from Messina was left open, 
nor does he explain his meaning. But I 
afifirm that there was, in fact, no departure 
from my instructions; and that, as Sir 
Juhan Corbett must be aware, my dis- 
positions were approved by the Admiralty 
in all respects. Yet we have this extra- 
ordinary circumstance, that the Admiralty, 
having had submitted to them Sir Julian 
Corbett 's statement, allowed it to be pub- 
lished, with what is virtually their approval. 
Sir Julian adds that there was no longer 
any need for me to concern myself with 
the safety of the French transports. Here 
the implication is that I knew, and also 
that the Admiralty knew, the movements 
of the French Fleet, and that either my 
original instructions should have been 
cancelled, or that I should have disobeyed 
them. Here, again, the Admiralty allowed 
the publication of what is, in fact, a totally 


false implication; and which is indeed 
virtually contradicted by the historian 
himself; for, after interpolating a descrip- 
tion of the rapid and unexpected changes 
in the disposition of the French naval 
forces, which were not understood at the 
time by the British authorities, and which 
were unknown to me. Sir Julian Corbett 
proceeds to remark that the reason for 
my own dispositions " was clearly a belief 
that the Germans might still have an inten- 
tion to attack the French convoys, and 
so long as this was a practical possibility, 
the Admiral could scarcely disregard his 
strict injunctions to protect them." 
(" Official History," I. 62.) The historian 
goes on to describe the position and the 
feelings of Admiral Souchon and the officers 
and men of the Goeben and Breslau, then 
coaling at Messina, adding, what is per- 
fectly true, that " all this was in the dark, 
when Admiral Milne, feeling bound by his 
instructions that the ' Goeben was his 
objective,' made his last dispositions to 
prevent her escape to the northward." 


Sir Julian Corbett would seem to consider, 
as he certainly implies, that a flag-officer 
may obey or disobey, according to his fancy, 
the orders he receives from the Admiralty. 

While such a misapprehension might 
naturally be entertained by a civilian, it 
cannot possibly exist at the Admiralty; 
and I am, therefore, at a loss to understand 
on what principle the Admiralty sanctioned 
the publication of these passages. The 
historian further implies that it was, in 
any case, a mistake to take measures to 
prevent the Goeben and Breslau from 
escaping " northward." Again, that may 
be the opinion of Sir Julian Corbett ; but, 
again, it cannot possibly be the opinion 
of the Admiralty, for their Lordships both 
ordered and subsequently approved that 
disposition of forces. It was a disposition 
which, at the time, I considered to be the 
best disposition, nor do I now perceive 
what in the circumstances would have been 
a better strategical distribution. Nor does 
Sir Julian Corbett suggest one. 





I RETURN to the sequence of the events 
of Wednesday, 5th August, when Inflexible 
(flag) with Indefatigable and Weymouth 
were patrolUng the passage between the 
African coast and the south coast of Sicily. 
Indomitable and three destroyers had gone 
to Bizerta to coal. Chatham, which had 
captured a German colher, was ordered 
to take her into Bizerta and coal. Dublin 
was coaling at Malta, and was ordered 
to proceed thence with three destroyers 
to join the Rear-Admiral's squadron at 
the mouth of the Adriatic. Gloucester 
was watching the southern end of the 
Strait of Messina. 

At midday I received a report that the 
Austrian Battle Fleet was cruising outside 
Pola, in the Adriatic. It should be borne 

V 81 


in mind that, at this time, the neutrahty 
of Austria was in doubt. 

At 2 p.m. I received a telegram from 
the Admiralty informing me that Austria- 
Hungary had not declared war against 
France or Great Britain, and instructing 
me to continue to watch the mouth of 
the Adriatic, so that the Austrian Fleet 
should not emerge imobserved, and that 
the two (German ships should be prevented 
from entering the Adriatic. It should 
here be remembered that the numerical 
and potential superiority of the Austrian 
Fleet over the British Fleet made the 
attitude of Austria of supreme moment, 
a point wholly ignored in the " Official 

At 5 p.m. (Wednesday, 5th August) I 
received a report from Gloucester that, 
judging by wireless signals intercepted, 
the Goeben appeared to be at Messina. 
It should here be mentioned that on the 
preceding day I had learned that the 
General, a German mail steamer, had 


landed passengers at Messina and was 
remaining at the disposition of the Goeben, 
It was probable, therefore, that Goeben, 
Breslau and General were all at Messina. 
A further report to the same effect was 
received a little later. At 7 p.m. I received 
information from the Admiralty that mines 
had been laid in the Dardanelles (they 
had been laid before I passed the Straits 
in June), and that the Dardanelles Hghts- 
had been extinguished. Had there been 
any conjecture that the Goeben would try 
to pass the Dardanelles, it would have 
been weakened by the information that 
mines had been laid and lights extinguished. 
But, in fact, there was no such conjecture. 
According to the " Official History," it 
seems that the German Admiral himself 
was in a state of painful irresolution. 

" According to Admiral von Tirpitz, 
when on August 3 news was received of 
the alleged alliance with Turkey, orders 
were sent to Admiral Souchon to attempt 
to break through to the Dardanelles. On 


August 5 the German Embassy at Constan- 
tinople reported that, in view of the 
situation there, it was undesirable for the 
ships to arrive for the present. Thereupon 
the orders for the Dardanelles were can- 
celled, and Admiral Souchon, who was 
then coaling at Messina, was directed to 
proceed to Pola or else break into the 
Atlantic. Later in the day, however, 
Austria, in spite of the pressure that was 
being put upon her from Berlin to declare 
war, protested she was not in a position 
to help with her fleet. In these circum- 
stances it was thought best to give Admiral 
Souchon liberty to decide for himself 
which line of escape to attempt, and he 
then chose the hne of his first instructions." 
(" Official History," I. 71, note.) ^ 

* According to Major M61as, private secretary to 
King Constantino of Greece, the existence of the 
treaty was known in Greece. " On 4th August, 1914, 
the Kaiser sent for our Minister at BerHn and told 
him that he might officially inform King Constantine 
that an alliance had been definitely concluded on 
that day between Germany and Turkey, and gave 


If the account of Grand-Admiral von 
Tirpitz, cited by Sir Julian Corbett, be 
accurate, it will be observed that the whole 
situation turned upon the conclusion 
between Germany and Turkey of the secret 
treaty, which, according to Sir Julian 
Corbett, was not known to the British 
(Government until " long afterwards." 
Again assuming von Tirpitz's account to 
be accurate, it would be interesting to 
learn what, in the view of Sir Julian Cor- 
bett — even if he had known on 5th August, 
1914, the circumstances which he relates 
in his history, and which he states were 
unknown to the authorities — ^would have 
been the correct disposition of the British 
Fleet remedying the " serious defect " 
he describes. 

Having received no news of the German 

him to understand, moreover, that certainly 
Bulgaria, and perhaps Roumania, would range 
themselves on the side of the Central Powers." 
(" Ex-King Constantine and the War." George 
M. M61as. Hutchinson, 1920.) 


ships during the night of 5th-6th August, 
at 6.30 a.m. on Thursday, 6th August, 
proceeding upon the assumption that they 
were at Messina, I began a sweep to the 
eastward, north of Sicily, with Inflexible 
(flag), Indefatigable and Weymouth. If the 
Goeben, after coaling at Messina, had left 
the Strait by the north entrance, she would 
be signalled by my squadron at about 
6 p.m. By 4.40 p.m. I had received no 
report of the departure of the Goeben from 
Messina. That she had not escaped west- 
wards, I knew. She might have gone 
north, but, considering it improbable that 
she would take that course, I determined 
to close the northern entrance to the Strait 
of Messina. The squadron was disposed 
accordingly. Chatham was ordered to pro- 
ceed at 20 knots to Milazzo Point, off 
Messina, and was informed of the position 
which would be occupied by the two battle 
cruisers and Weymouth at midnight. 

These dispositions had scarcely been 
made when, half an hour later, the Gloucesr 


ter, which was watching the southern 
entrance to the Strait, reported that the 
Goeben was coming out of the Strait of 
Messina, the Breslau following her one 
mile astern, steering eastward. The posi- 
tion was then as follows : If Goeben and 
Breslau attempted to enter the Adriatic, 
Rear-Admiral Troubridge, with the First 
Cruiser Squadron and ten destroyers, would 
prevent them; if the German ships, 
followed by Gloucester, escaped her in the 
night and turned westwards, my squadron 
of battle cruisers must be so placed as 
to intercept them. As my instructions 
strictly forbade me to enter the Strait 
of Messina, I was obliged, in order to take 
up the requisite position, to come down 
the west coast of Sicily. With Inflexible 
(flag). Indefatigable, Weymouth and Chatham 
(recalled) I accordingly proceeded to round 
the west coast of Sicily. Further reports 
from Gloucester, which was pursuing the 
German ships, stated that they were 
steering eastward, then north-eastward. 


I therefore continued on my course to 
Malta, in order to coal there and to continue 
the chase, arriving at noon on Friday, 7th 
August. Chatham was then ordered to 
patrol off Milazzo, in case Goeben and 
Breslau should turn back and escape 
through the Strait of Messina northward. 
In the meantime, at 11 p.m. on the 
night of Thursday, 6th August, I had 
received a telegram from the Admiralty 
countermanding previous instructions and 
ordering me, if the Goeben went south, 
to follow her through the Strait of Messina. 
Unfortunately, by the time the new 
instructions reached me, it was too late to 
fulfil them. I was then off Maritimo, the 
west coast of Sicily, and to return to 
Messina would have involved traversing 
two sides of a triangle, instead of the 
one which I had still to traverse, as a 
reference to the chart will show ; or, as it 
stated in the " Official History " : " Un- 
fortunately, it (the telegram) did not 
come to hand till midnight, too late for the 


Admiral to modify the movement to which 
he was committed." (I. 63.) 

In the " Official History " occurs the 
following account of the dispositions of 
the German ships, taken from Ludwig's 
" Die Fahrten der Goehen und der 
Breslau,^^ p. 55 : 

" Admiral Souchon's intention, as his 
one chance of escape, was to steer a false 
course until nightfall, so as to give the 
impression he was making back to join 
the Austrians in the Adriatic, and as his 
reserve ammunition had been sent to Pola^ 
this was probably the original intention 
before the intervention of Great Britain 
rendered that sea nothing but a trap. 
The orders he issued were that the Goehen 
would leave at 5 p.m. at seventeen knots ; 
the Breslau would follow five miles astern, 
closing up at dark; while the General, 
sailing two hours later, would keep along 
the Sicilian coast and make, by a southerly 
track, for Santorin, the most southerly 
island of the Archipelago . The two cruisers, 


after steering their false course till dark, 
would make for Cape Matapan (south of 
Greece), where, as we have seen, a collier 
had been ordered to meet them. In 
accordance with this plan, Admiral Sou- 
chon, the moment he sighted the Glou- 
cesteTy altered coui'se to port so as to keep 
along the coast of Calabria (Italy) outside 
the six-mile limit." (" Official History," 
I. 63.) 

Sir Julian Corbett, in preparing liis 
material, had before him the orders of 
the Overman and French Admirals, as well 
as those of the British Admiral; he also 
knew the actual dispositions and move- 
ments from day to day, the objects with 
which they were made, and the actual 
results obtained. He seems, perhaps im- 
consciously, to ignore the fact that the 
orders and the dispositions of French and 
GJerman ships were imknown at the time 
both to the Admiralty and to the British 

For instance, Sir Julian Corbett, referring 


to my dispositions, proceeds to affirm 
that my " idea was that Admiral Trou- 
bridge, with his squadron and his eight 
destroyers, besides two more which were 
being hurried off to him from Malta in 
charge of the Dublin^ was strong enough 
to bar the Adriatic, and that there was 
still a possibility of the German making 
back to the westward along the south 
' of Sicily." Here, again, the implication 
is clearly that my "idea" was mistaken; 
and again I have to observe that it was 
not a question of ideas, but of the best 
dispositions it was possible to make in the 
circumstances, dispositions which were 
demanded by the only known conditions 
of the problem, and which were approved 
at every stage by the Admiralty. 




To return to the chase of the Goeben 
and Breslau so gallantly conducted by 
Captain W. A. Howard Kelly in Gloucester, 
At 7.30 p.m. on Thursday, 6th August, 
the German ships were steering north-east 
along the coast of Calabria, between Glou- 
cester and the land. As the dark fell, 
they were becoming lost to sight ; and 
Captain Kelly, in order to keep them in 
view and to get them in the light of the 
moon, steered inshore to reverse the 
position. In so doing, he ran well within 
range of the Goeben, which could have sunk 
him, and proceeded on her port quarter. 
The Breslau then began to pinch him 
inshore, and Captain Kelly was obliged 
to drop back. The Breslau steered to 



cross his bows; Captain Kelly altered 
course to meet her; and the two ships 
passed each other at a distance of 4,000 
yards. Captain Kelly, rightly considering 
it to be his first duty to follow the Goeben, 
did not open fire. Breslau retreated east- 
south-eastwards and disappeared. Cap- 
tain Kelly held on in chase of Goeben. 
At about two o'clock the Goeberiy then off 
the Gulf of Squillace, also altered course 
to the southward. 

In the meantime, Rear-Admiral Trou- 
bridge, who had been patrolling with the 
First Cruiser Squadron {Defence (fiag). 
Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh, Black Prince) 
off Cephalonia, on the west coast of Greece, 
upon learning that the German ships 
were steering north-eastward, went north, 
in order to engage them off Fano Island, 
should they attempt to enter the Adriatic. 
When he learned that the Goeben and 
Breslau had altered course to the south- 
ward, Rear-Admiral Troubridge, at mid- 
night on the night of 6th-7th August, 


turned south to intercept them. In the 
" Official History " it is stated that " His 
intention had been to engage the Goeben 
if he could get contact before 6 a.m., since 
that was the only chance of his being able 
to engage her closely enough for any pros- 
pect of success, and when he found it im- 
possible, he thought it his duty not to risk 
his squadron against an enemy who, by his 
superiority in speed and gun-power, could 
choose his distance and outrange him." 

At 4 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 7th 
August, I received information from Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge that he had abandoned 
the chase of the German ships ; or, to be 
more exact, that he had abandoned his 
intention of intercepting them and bringing 
them to action. 

For his conduct on this occasion Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge was tried by Court- 
martial and was " fully and honourably " 

^ Sir Julian Corbett, on p. 67, quotes the verdict 
of the Court, thus suggesting that he had access to 



There is, of course, nothing more to be 
said on the matter ; and my observations 
upon the episode do not refer to Rear- 
Ad miral Troubridge, but to the account 
of the episode presented in the " Ofl&cial 

It is there stated that Rear-Admiral 
Troubridge " had received no authority 
to quit his position, nor any order to 
support the Gloucester " (I. 65). The state- 
ment is incorrect. On 3rd August, the 
Rear-Admiral had received the Admiralty 
instructions (already described) to main- 
tain the watch on the Adriatic, and stating, 
" but Goeben is your objective." Nor 
are the Rear-Admiral's signals to me, to 
which Sir Julian Corbett presumably had 
access, in accordance with Sir Julian's 

Sir Julian Corbett proceeds (I. 65) to 

the records of the Court-martial, which was held in 
secret. Indeed, his whole account of the matter 
gives the same impression. The papers have been 
denied to Parliament. 


make the following extraordinary state- 
ment : " Still, he (Rear- Admiral Trou- 
bridge) only slowed down, and held on 
as he was, in expectation that his two 
battle cruisers would now be sent back 
to him, with instructions for concerting 

I do not know why Sir Julian Corbett 
should attribute that action and that 
expectation to the Rear- Admiral. He did 
not, as the chart (No. 4) published in the 
*' Official History " clearly shows, hold 
on " as he was," but turned eastward to 
Zante. Nor is it possible to understand 
why the Rear-Admiral should be described 
as regarding the battle cruisers as " his," 
when they were no part of his command, 
and as expecting the arrival of ships 
which he knew were 300 miles away, a 
fact which Sir Julian Corbett could have 
ascertained had he consulted the Admiralty 
chart accompanying the text of his own 
" Official History." Still less is it possible 
to understand why the Admiralty should 


have permitted the publication of these 

A little further back in his account of 
the matter (I. 61), Sir Julian Corbett 
actually represents Rear-Admiral Trou- 
bridge as expecting on the previous Wed- 
nesday, 5th August, that " his two battle 
cruisers would now be returned to him " 
when the Rear-Admiral, of course, knew 
that they were cruising north of Sicily. It 
has already been explained that the two 
battle cruisers were at first attached to 
the Rear-Admiral's squadron for the sole 
purpose of shadowing the German ships. 
Then follows this remarkable passage, 
in which Rear-Admiral Troubridge is de- 
scribed as entertaining quite inexplicable 
ideas : " Indeed, his impression was that 
when they (the two battle cruisers) were 
first attached to his flag it was a pre- 
liminary step to the whole command 
devolving on him. For in the provisional 
conversations with France it was under- 
stood that the British squadron at the 


outbreak of war would come automatically 
under the French Commander-in-Chief — 
an arrangement which necessarily involved 
the withdrawal of an officer of Admiral 
Milne's seniority." 

Sir Julian Corbett's reason for attributing 
this singular view to the Rear-Admiral 
can only be conjectured. As a matter of 
fact, the arrangement between the French 
and British Governments to which he 
refers was not signed until 6th August, 
and I received no copy of it until my 
arrival at Malta on 10th August. Nor 
under that agreement was the command 
to pass to the French Admiral until the 
XlXth Army Corps had been landed 
in France. But, in any case, it is quite 
incredible that a flag-officer should be 
under the " impression " that any strate- 
gical dispositions were a " preliminary step 
to the whole command devolving on him," 
in the absence of any notification to that 
effect. Rear- Admiral Troubridge, how- 
ever, is in a position to defend himself 


against these charges. I mention them, 
because Sir Julian Corbett, assuming their 
accuracy, proceeds to imply that I ought 
to have acted in accordance with a state 
of things which did not, in fact, exist. 

" Admiral Milne," writes Sir Julian (I. 
61), " however, took an entirely different 
view, and still feeling bound by his 
' primary object,' began at 7.30 a.m. on 
August 6 to sweep to the eastward, intend- 
ing to be in the longitude of Cape San Vito, 
the north-west point of Sicily, by 6 p.m., 
* at which hour,' so he afterwards explained, 
*the Goehen could have been sighted if 
she had left Messina,' where he considered 
she was probably coaling." 

The true sequence of events, as already 
narrated, sufficiently indicates the series 
of false implications contained in this 
passage. The main implication is, not 
only that I was mistaken in every par- 
ticular, but that the Admiralty were also 
mistaken. If there is any other inference 
to be drawn from this part of Sir Julian 


Corbett's " History," it is that the forces 
operating to the north of Messina should 
have been withdrawn in defiance of all 
instructions, leaving that way of escape 
open to the Goeben. 

At about the time (midnight, 6th-7th 
August) when Rear- Admiral Troubridge 
turned south from off Santa Maura to 
intercept the German ships, the Dublin 
and two destroyers, on the way to join 
the Rear-Admiral, sighted, in the moon- 
light, smoke on the horizon. Captain John 
Kelly, commanding Dublin^ had been 
guided by signals received from his brother, 
Captain W. A. Howard Kelly, commanding 
Gloucester, then chasing the Goeben, At 
first Captain Kelly, in Dublin, took the 
ship in sight to be Goeben. Then the sig- 
nals from Gloucester told him that she 
must be Breslau, and at 4 a.m. he altered 
course to attack Goeben by torpedo. 

But Captain John Kelly failed to find 
Goeben, and continued on his course to 
join the Rear-Admiral's flag. Captain 


Howard Kelly, in Gloucester, continued 
his pursuit of the Goeben. At about 5.80 
a.m. (Friday, 7th August), I signalled to 
Captain Kelly instructing him gradually to 
drop astern and to avoid capture. Captain 
Kelly held on, and at 10.30 a.m. Breslau 
rejoined Goeben. At about 1 p.m., Breslau, 
in order to check Gloucester, began to drop 
astern. Captain Kelly, in order to keep 
Goeben in sight, determined to engage 
Breslau, so that either she would be forced 
to retreat towards Goeben, or Goeben would 
be compelled to turn back. At 1.35 he 
opened fire, which was returned. Captain 
Kelly increased speed, brought the enemy 
on his starboard quarter and continued 
fire, it is believed with effect. The 
manoeuvre had the result intended, for 
the Goeben turned 16 points and 
opened fire, whereupon Captain Kelly 
broke off the action, retreated, and then 
continued the chase until the German ships 
had rounded Cape Matapan. I had ordered 
Captain Kelly, who was, I knew, getting 


short of coal, and who ran great risk of 
capture, to stop pursuit at Cape Matapan 
and to rejoin the Rear- Admiral. At 4.40 
p.m., then. Captain Kelly turned, while the 
German ships held on through the Cervi 
Channel, between the southern extremity 
of Greece and the island of Kithera. Cap- 
tain Kelly was highly commended for his 
action by the Admiralty, and received the 
honour of the Companionship of the Bath. 
During the night of 6th-7th August, 
I had received an offer from the French 
Admiral to place at my disposal a squadron 
of armoured cruisers.^ 

1 Armoured cruisers BruiXy Laiouche-TrSvillet 
Admiral Charner and cruiser Jurien de la Graviire, 

X / 




At noon on Friday, 7th August — ^while 
Gloucester was still pursuing Goehen — In- 
flexible (flag), Indefatigable and Weymouth 
arrived at Malta and coaled. Chatham 
was then patrolling north of Messina. 
Indomitable^ which had been coaling at 
Bizerta, arrived at Malta shortly after the 
arrival there of the rest of my squadron. 

In the " Official History " it is stated 

that " The Indomitable at Bizerta was 

greatly delayed in coaling, so that it was 

not until 7 p.m. she was ready to sail, and 

then she received her orders — but they 

were not that she should reinforce Admiral 

Troubridge." (I. 61. )i 

1 The footnote on p. 61, 1. " Official History," 
referring to the coal supply at Bizerta, is inaccurate. 
The collier mentioned was sent in by me to supply 
the Fleet. 



Here there is a clear implication on the 
part of the historian that the Indomitable 
should have been sent to reinforce the 
Rear-Admiral in the Adriatic. Again, on 
p. 66, it is stated that " The Indomitable 
was coming up astern at 21 knots, 
and when she reached Malta he (the 
Commander-in-Chief) did not send her on, 
but kept her there till his two other ships 
had coaled." Sir Julian Corbett here dis- 
tinctly implies that the Indomitable was 
kept at Malta without reason. The 
reasons, however, are contained in the 
documents to which Sir Julian Corbett 
had access. There were two reasons. One 
was that in pursuing the German ships at 
full speed on 4th August, there occurred 
boiler defects in Indomitable, which made 
it necessary to spend twelve hours in Malta 
in repairing them. The other reason 
was related to that superiority in speed 
possessed by the Goeben, which the official 
historian ignores. At noon on 7th August, 
when Indomitable arrived at Malta, Goeben 


was off the southern extremity of Greece, 
and proceeding eastwards. Had Indo- 
mitable (without repairing her boiler defects) 
been ordered to proceed direct from Bi- 
zerta, at the time of her leaving that port 
on the evening of 6th August, she would 
have been some 350 miles distant from 
Gloucester, and about 365 miles distant 
from the German ships. Goehen and Bres- 
lau were then steering towards the Adriatic, 
where Rear-Admiral Troubridge, with the 
First Cruiser Squadron was waiting for 
them. When, later in the evening, I 
learned that the German ships had turned 
south, it was necessary to prevent their 
return westward to attack the French 
transports. In order to do so, the battle 
cruiser squadron must be so disposed as 
to intercept the German ships. As already 
explained, owing to their superior speed, 
to attempt to catch them by pursuit was 

When upon the afternoon of 7th August, 
Goehen and Breslau entered the Cervi 


Channel, Indomitable would have been at 
least 180 miles distant from Goeheriy and, 
supposing Goeben to continue to steam at 
only 15 knots, it would have taken In- 
domitable, steaming at 20 knots, another 
thirty-six hours to overhaul Goeben. 

For these reasons, I considered it ad- 
visable to keep Indomitable with the rest 
of the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron, 
a decision which was approved by the 
Admiralty. But, apart from these con- 
siderations, had I sent Indomitable to 
chase Goeben, the sequel shows that the 
only result would have been to run her 
out of coal at a critical moment when 
the telegram notifying declaration of war 
against Austria having been received, i|t 
was necessary to concentrate the fleet. 

With reference to the dispositions of 
Rear- Admiral Troubridge on the night of 
6th-7th August, it is stated in the " Official 
History *' (I. 64) that the Rear-Admiral's 
"destroyers, with scarcely any coal in 
their bunkers, were all either at Santa 


Maura or patrolling outside. His inten- 
tion, as we have seen, had been to seek 
an engagement only at dusk, but Admiral 
Milne had ordered him to leave a night 
action to his destroyers." In a footnote 
it is added : " Their collier had been 
ordered to Port Vathi in Ithaca, but the 
Greek skipper had gone to another port 
of the same name." It would be hard to 
pack more errors in the same number of 
words. The collier described as going to 
Port Vathi in Samos — ^not Ithaca — ^was the 
Greek vessel Petros, which several days 
later was taken up by the British Minister 
at Athens to carry 1,000 tons of coal 
from the Piraeus. The collier sent by 
me to supply the destroyers in the 
Adriatic was the Vesuvio, which left Malta 
at 8 p.m. on 6th August for Port Vathi, 
Ithaca — not Samos — where she duly 
arrived at 2 p.m. on the 8th. The Rear- 
Admiral was informed of her despatch, 
but he was evidently ignorant of her 
arrival, for he continued to report to me 


difficulties due to deficiency of coal. When, 
early on the 9th August, Weymouth visited 
Port Vathi, she found that the collier had 
arrived as arranged. 

It is apparently the intention of the 
whole passage in the " Official History " 
referring to the lack of coal of the de- 
stroyers in the Adriatic, to suggest neg- 
ligence on my part. The difficulty of 
obtaining coal was indeed considerable, 
and necessarily affected the disposition of 
forces, but not as implied in the " Official 

It may here be explained that at noon, 
on 7th August, I was informed by Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge that he was supplying 
destroyers with coal sufficient to enable 
them to steam to Malta at 15 knots. On 
the following day, 8th August (to antici- 
pate a little the order of events), Gloucester 
reported that the second division of de- 
stroyers was kept at the Ionian Islands for 
want of coal, and in the evening the Rear- 
Admiral informed me that no destroyer 


had more than 40 tons. As it has been 
explained, the collier Vesuvio had already 
(2 p.m., 8th August) arrived at Port Vathi, 
Ithaca, unknown to the Rear- Admiral. 
By 9th August three more colliers were on 
their way to Port Vathi and an ample 
supply of coal was thus secured. 

To return to the events of Friday, 7th 
August. At 8 p.m. three destroyers were 
sent to watch the southern end of the 
Strait of Messina, in case the German ships 
should return and attempt to pass the 
Strait. The patrol was maintained until 
15th August. As the French squadron of 
armoured cruisers was patrolling the channel 
between Cape Bon, on the African coast, and 
Marsala in Sicily, both the westward lines 
of retreat were thus effectively watched. 

At midnight a report was received that 
the German mail steamer General, after 
transformation into an armed auxiliary 
cruiser, had left Messina steering south. 
The French Admiral at Bizerta and all his 
ships were informed of the report. 




Before 1 a.m. on the morning of Satur- 
day, 8th August, the Second Battle Cruiser 
Squadron, Inflexible (flag). Indomitable and 
Indefatigable, and Weymouth having com- 
pleted with coal, sailed from Malta to 
search for Goeben and Breslau, which had 
been last seen by Gloucester, at 5.12 p.m. 
on the previous evening, steering east at 
15 knots through the Cervi Channel, be- 
tween Cape Malea, the southern extremity 
of Greece, and the Island of Kithera. At 
8.37 a.m., 8th August, information was 
received that no German ships were at 
Naples. At 9.15 a.m. Chatham, patrol- 
ling to the north of Messina, was ordered 
to proceed southward through the Strait of 
Messina at 20 knots to Malta, there to 



Then occurred an incident which neces- 
sarily affected the whole of my dispositions, 
with the result that the pursuit of the 
German vessels was checked for twenty- 
four hours. The actual delay was much 
longer, as will appear, because the altera- 
tion of dispositions involved a considerable 
divergence of course and a consequent 
retracing of track. 

In the " Official History " the account of 
the matter is as follows : " Then fortune 
played another trick, for here he received 
from the Admiralty a warning, which had 
been sent out by mistake, that hostilities 
had commenced against Austria. He could 
not yet tell whether the GoeherCs objective 
might not be Alexandria and our Levant 
and Eastern trade, but since his last news 
of the French Fleet was that it would not 
be free to co-operate with him before the 
10th, his only course seemed to he to turn 
hack and re-concentrate his fleet} 

"He therefore proceeded to a position 
I My italics.— A. B. M. 


100 miles south-westward of Cephalonia so 
as to prevent the Austrians cutting him off 
from his base, and ordered Admiral Trou- 
bridge to join him. The Gloucester and the 
destroyers were to do the same, while the 
Dublin and Weymouth were left to watch 
the Adriatic. Later on in the day 
(August 8) he was informed that the alarm 
was false, but as, at the same time, he was 
instructed that relations with Austria were 
critical, he continued his movement for 
concentration till noon on the 9th. Then 
came a telegram from the Admiralty to say 
definitely we were not at war with Austria 
and that he was to resume the chase." 

(1.69). . . 

The official historian here implies that m 
making the new dispositions, inaccurately 
described as " turning back," there was a 
choice of courses to be followed. There 
was, in fact, no such choice. My written 
instructions concerning measures to be 
taken in case of war with Austria were 
explicit and definite. Either Sir Julian 


Corbett, in compiling his narrative, had 
access to copies of those instructions, or he 
had not. If he had access to them, I am 
at a loss to understand why he should 
imply that there was an alternative course, 
or that any considerations other than my 
instructions could possibly affect my action. 
If Sir Julian Corbett did not see my instruc- 
tions, it is equally difficult to understand 
why he should have drawn conclusions for 
which he had no warrant, and why the 
Admiralty, which were aware of the facts, 
should have allowed those conclusions to 

What actually happened was that at 
2 p.m. on Saturday, 8th August, when the 
squadron was half-way between Sicily and 
Greece, steering eastward, I received a 
telegram ordering hostilities against Austria 
to be begun at once. Acting instantly 
upon the instructions provided for that 
contingency, I proceeded to a position 
in which I could support Rear-Admiral 
Troubridge's squadron, then watching the 


mouth of the Adriatic, and issued orders 
concentrating the Fleet. 

In order to execute these dispositions, 
it was necessary to turn north-westwards, 
and to steer for a rendezvous 100 miles 
south-west of Cephalonia, at which the 
Rear-Admiral was ordered to join my 
flag. Weymouth was sent to join Dublin 
at the mouth of the Adriatic, and Chatham 
was ordered to join them so soon as she 
had finished coaling at Malta. Gloucester 
was ordered to convoy destroyers. Thus, 
at the critical moment of the search for 
the German vessels, the whole of the light 
cruiser force was diverted northwards from 
the line of pursuit. 

At 4 p.m., a telegram was received from 
the Admiralty negativing the previous 
telegram. The new message being made 
in a somewhat irregular manner, it could 
not be accepted as genuine without con- 
firmation, which was accordingly requested. 
The reply, received at 6 p.m., confirmed 
the negative telegram. A little later, m 


a further telegram from the Admiralty, 
the situation with regard to Austria was 
described as critical. In these circum- 
stances, it was my duty to continue to act 
upon my instructions relating to the con- 
tingency of war with Austria. It is enough 
to say, as the " Official History " correctly 
states,^ that those instructions involved 
the concentration of the Fleet and conse- 
quently the entire abandonment of the 
pursuit of the German vessels. 

At noon on Sunday, 9th August, I 
received a telegram from the Admiralty 
stating definitely that Great Britain was 
not at war with Austria, and instructing 
me to resume the pursuit of the Goeben, 
Twenty-four hours had thus elapsed since 
the arrival of the order from the Admiralty 
to begin hostilities against Austria, com- 

^ " Later on in the day (August 8) he was informed 
that the alarm was false, but as, at the same time, 
he was instructed that the relations with Austria 
were critical, he continued his movement for con- 
centration till noon on the 9th." (" Official History," 
I. 69.) 


pelling me to alter the whole of my dis- 
positions and thus to relinquish the search 
for the (German vessels, which were there- 
fore twenty-four hours steaming further 




When at noon on Sunday, 9th August, 
I received orders to resume the search, 
the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron, with 
Weymouth, was off Cephalonia. The light 
cruisers Gloucester and Chatham were at 
Malta, coaling, and Chatham's circulating 
engine was under repair. These ships 
were ordered to join my flag. Rear- 
Admiral Troubridge, with the First Cruiser 
Squadron, Dublin and ten destroyers, was 
instructed to continue to patrol the mouth 
of the Adriatic. With Inflexible (flag), 
Indomitable, Indefatigable and Weymouth, 
I proceeded immediately down the west 
coast of Greece towards Cape Matapan, to 
search for the German vessels. 

In the "Official History" (I. 69), it 
is stated that " The movement involved 

I 129 


some risk, since, for the time, it left 
Admiral Troubridge in the air." ... It 
is an expression I am unable to under- 
stand, nor does the official historian ex- 
plain what other course was possible. Sir 
Julian Corbett proceeds : " Since Admiral 
Milne came down the Greek coast at only 
10 knots, presumably to allow his light 
cruisers to come up, it was not till 8 a.m. 
on August 10 that he entered the ^gean." 
The passage clearly implies that time 
was lost. That erroneous implication is 
evidently due to Sir Julian Corbett's ignor- 
ance of the tactical problem involved in 
the superior speed possessed by the Goeberif 
already described. Slow speed was made, 
not " presumably " in order to enable the 
light cruisers to rejoin the Second Battle 
Cruiser Squadron, as Sir Julian Corbett 
conjectures, but absolutely for that pur- 
pose ; for the simple reason that to search 
for ships of superior speed among the 
islands of the -^gean Sea with battle 
cruisers alone would have been an insane 


proceeding. The only chance of catching 
the German vessels was to discover their 
position with the swift light cruisers and 
then to manoeuvre with the battle cruisers 
to cut them off. 

During Sunday, 9th August, I received 
no reliable information concerning the 
position of the Gterman vessels. As re- 
corded in the " Official History," Goeben 
and Breslau were in fact at Denusa, a 
small island at the mouth of the -^gean, 
at which they arrived on the morning of 
Saturday, 8th August; and the armed 
auxiliary steamer General^ after holding 
a southern course from Messina, turning 
north-eastward and passing north of Crete, 
had arrived at Smyrna on the morning of 
Sunday, 9th August.^ 

As the movements and intentions of the 
(ierman vessels were utterly unknown to 

* " Admiral Souchon was actually still at Denusa, 
waiting to hear that permission to enter the 
Dardanelles had been negotiated. But not a word 
could the General pass him of any alteration in the 
situation." (" Official History," I. 69.) 


me, it was necessary to take measures in 
accordance with probable contingencies. 
These were : (1) That the Goehen might 
attempt to take refuge in a Greek port, 
where Admiral Souchon could rely on the 
good offices of Greece. (The (Jerman 
Admiral was accustomed to use Phalerum 
in time of peace.) (2) That the Goehen 
might proceed to Salonika to attack that 
port and thus destroy the Serbian supplies. 
(3) That she might turn south to attack 
the south-eastern trade and to destroy 
British shipping at Alexandria and Port 
Said. (4) That she might attempt to return 
westward and to leave the Mediterranean. 

Under these conditions it was clearly my 
duty to try to keep the (ierman ships to 
the north. Therefore the battle cruisers 
must remain in the south-west part of the 
^gean until definite information of the 
positions of the German ships could be 

In accordance with these considerations, 
the battle cruisers having rounded Cape 


Malea, the southern extremity of Greece, 
at 10.55 p.m. on Sunday, 9th August 
(some fifty-nine hours after Goehen and 
Breslau had passed the same point), upon 
entering the ^gean, were spread twelve 
miles apart to patrol on a north-easterly 
course, while Weymouth was detached 
to search the Kithera and Antikithera 
channels, thence south-east towards Crete, 
thence north-east to the island of Milo. 
It will be observed that the rest of the 
light cruisers — Gloucester^ Chatham, Dublin 
— ^had not as yet had time to join my 

At 9.80 a.m. on Monday, 10th August, 
wireless signals of the note and code used 
by the Goehen were recognised, but the 
direction could not be ascertained. In 
case the Goehen might be to the southward 
of the squadron, course was altered to the 
south, the ships being spread twelve miles 
apart. Soon afterwards, signals were 
heard which seemed to confirm the south- 
erly position of Goehen. But at 2.10 p.m.. 


as the signals became weaker, the squadron 
turned northward again. 

In the meantime Weymouth was search- 
ing among the islands. At about 6 p.m. 
Indefatigable looked into Milo. Chatham, 
proceeding to Cape Malea, was given her 
course to search among the islands. To- 
wards dark the three battle cruisers 
assembled and proceeded in company 
through the Siphano Channel. 

Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., on Tuesday, 
11th August, the wireless signals of the 
German armed auxiliary General increased 
in strength; whereupon Weymouth was 
ordered to proceed to examine the Gulf of 
Smyrna; further instructions to search 
among the islands were given to Chatham; 
and the battle cruisers, keeping within 
searchlight signalling distance, were spread 
to search. At 6 a.m., Dublin, sent to join 
my flag by the Rear-Admiral, rounded 
Cape Malea and was sent to Milo Island to 




It was at 10.30 a.m., on Tuesday, 11th 
August, that I received the first definite 
information of the position of the German 
vessels since the Gloucester, upon turning 
back, had seen Goeben and Breslau enter 
the Cervi Channel at 4.40 p.m. on 
Friday, 7th August. At 10.30 on the 
morning of the 11th August, then, I 
received a telegram from Malta informing 
me that Goeben and Breslau had arrived at 
the Dardanelles at nine o'clock on the 
previous evening, 10th August. 

Weymouth was immediately ordered to 
proceed at full speed to watch the Darda- 
nelles, and, if the German vessels were not 
to be seen, to pass up to Chanak, hugging 
the European shore. The battle cruisers 
proceeded to a position north-west of 
Psara Island (about the middle of the 



Mgean Sea) to maintain a watch for the 
German vessels until their position could 
be ascertained by the light cruisers. 
Chatham and Gloucester were ordered to 
rejoin flag after dark. Dublin, then coal- 
ing at Milo Island, was ordered to be ready 
to pick up and pursue Goeben if she came 

At 3.8 p.m. I received a telegram from 
the Admiralty stating that Goeben and 
Breslau had arrived in the Dardanelles 
upon the previous evening, and ordering 
me to establish a blockade of the Dar- 
danelles, an order which was subsequently 
modified to instructions to keep watch 
in case the Grerman ships came out. 

In the "Official History" (I. 70), it 
is stated that the order was "to block- 
ade the exit," and there is no mention 
of the subsequent change to " watch." 
To blockade involves the stopping and 
searching of all ships of neutral Powers, 
to which notice must be given beforehand. 
To watch is a normal operation. 


At 5 p.m., Tuesday, 11th August, Wey- 
mouth arrived off Dardanelles, where she 
was met by two Turkish torpedo boats, and 
was greeted by a blank charge fired by one 
of the forts. She reported that the signal 
station refused her permission to enter the 
Straits, and that the guns of the forts on 
both sides were trained upon her. Wey- 
mouth was ordered to remain three miles 
outside the Dardanelles and to report if 
the enemy, who was at Chanak, came out. 
The battle cruisers were dispersed upon a 
patrol whose northern limit was seventeen 
miles south-west from Tenedos Island. 
Chatham and Gloucester were assigned 
watching positions.. 

On Wednesday, 12th August, a Turkish 
military officer came out in a torpedo boat, 
and at 8 a.m. he informed Captain William 
D. Church, in command of Weymouth, 
that the Goeben and Breslau were then at 
Constantinople and that they had been 
purchased by the Turkish (Government. 
During the day, I was informed that the 


Goehen had sailed from Chanak for Con- 
stantinople at 2 p. m. on the previous day; 
that the Breslau was anchored off Nagara 
Point; that the General (with the Cor- 
covado) was at Constantinople; and that 
all these vessels were flying the (German 

During Wednesday, 12th August, a close 
watch was maintained on the Dardanelles, 
and all steamers were boarded. A Greek 
destroyer was also watching the Dar- 
danelles. She reported that two Greek 
cruisers and a destroyer flotilla were at 
Port Mudros. 

At a little past midnight on the night 
of 12th-18th August, X received orders 
from the Admiralty to proceed in Inflexible 
(flag) to Malta. Shortly afterwards was 
received the Admiralty telegram ordering 
hostilities to be commenced against 
Austria. At the same time I received 
instructions with regard to the ships to be 
placed under the orders of the French 




Inflexible (flag), with Weymouth and 
Dublin^ sailed at 3 a.m. on Thursday, 
18th August, and arrived at Malta 
at 4.45 p.m. on Friday, 14th August. 
In accordance with my instructions, I 
made arrangements for turning over the 
records of the station to Rear-Admiral 
Garden. According to the agreement con- 
cluded between the French and British 
Gk)vernments on the 6th August, the 
supreme command in the Mediterranean 
was to pass to the French Admiral, while 
all French ships on all other stations in 
the world were to come under British 
officers. As I was of senior rank to the 
French Commander-in-Chief in the Mediter- 
ranean, Vice-Admiral A. Boue de Lapey- 
r^re, the arrangement was that I should 



return to England so soon as the French 
Vice-Admiral was able to take over the 
supreme command. 

On 18th August, I left Malta in Inflexible 
for Plymouth. 

In the " Official History " (I. 67) occur 
the following comments : " The outcome 
of a situation which had been so promising, 
and which might well have resulted in a 
success, priceless at the opening of the 
war, was a severe disappointment. But 
on his return home the Commander-in- 
Chief was able to give explanations of his 
difficulties and he was exonerated from 
blame. In view of the instructions which 
the Admiralty had given him in their 
anxiety to protect the French transport 
line and to respect the neutrality of Italy, 
it is clear that what blame there was could 
not rest solely on the shoulders of the 
Admiral. His failure was due, at least 
in part, to the fact that, owing to the rapid 
changes in the situation, it was practically 
impossible for the Admiralty to keep him 


adequately informed. The sudden pres- 
sure on an embryonic staff organisation 
was more than it could bear, but the fact 
remains that intelligence essential for form- 
ing a correct appreciation of the shifting 
situation either did not reach him, or 
reached him too late, and, what was more 
embarrassing, his original instructions as 
to his * primary object ' were not cancelled 
when they were rendered obsolete by the 
action of the Toulon Fleet." 

The student of the true narrative of 
the course of events will form his own 
estimate of the justice of Sir Julian Cor- 
bett's criticism, in which both the action 
of the Admiralty and my own conduct 
are arraigned. 

But it is right to observe that when 
Sir Julian Corbett states that I was 
" exonerated from blame " ; that " what 
blame there was could not rest solely 
on the shoulders of the Admiral "•; and 
that "his failure was due," etc.; there is 
a clear implication that a charge was 



brought against me. There was, of course, 
no such charge. I was, in fact, privileged 
to receive the expression of the approval 
of the Lords Commissioners of the 
Admiralty; as Sir Julian Corbett must 
have been well aware, although he omits 
to mention the circumstance. 

On 29th August, 1914, the Admiralty 
further issued to the Press the following 
official announcement: — 

" The Admiralissimo of the French 
Fleet, Rear-Admiral Bou^ de Lapeyr^re, 
has assumed command of the combined 
Anglo-French Fleet in the Mediterranean. 
As a consequence. Admiral Sir Berkeley 
Milne, Bart., who is senior to this 
officer, has given over the command 
of the Mediterranean Fleet and returned 

" The conduct and dispositions of 
Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne in regard to 
the German vessels Goeben and Breslau 
have been the subject of the careful 
examination of the Board of Admiralty, 
with the result that their Lordships have 
approved the measures taken by him in 
all respects." 


In connection with the whole account 
of the episode contained in the " Official 
History," it is pertinent briefly to recapi- 
tulate the tenour of the general instructions 
received by me from the Admiralty. 

The Goeben and Breslau were to be pre- 
vented from interfering with the transport 
of the French African Army, and from 
leaving the Mediterranean by the Strait 
of Gibraltar. 

The Goeben and Breslau were to be pre- 
vented from entering the Adriatic. 

In case of the emergence from the Adriatic 
of Austrian ships of war, these vessels 
were to be watched. 

The Goeben and Breslau were to be pre- 
vented from interfering with the trade 
in the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean. 

The possibility that Italy would join 
Austria and Germany was to be borne in 

The neutraUty of Italy was to be rigidly 
respected, no ship of war being permitted 
to go within six miles of the Italian coast. 


In accordance with these instructions, 
dispositions were made to prevent the 
(German ships from going westward. When 
they moved eastward, it was necessary 
to prevent them from again turning west- 
ward. When they entered the ^gean 
Sea, dispositions were made, should they 
either turn westward, or southward towards 
the Eastern trade routes and Egypt, to 
ensure that they would be closely pursued. 
The possibility was also considered that 
the German vessels might go to Salonika 
in order to interfere with the transport 
of Serbian supplies . It is therefore evident 
that the purposes indicated in my orders 
were fulfilled. 





Upon my retirement from the Royal 
Navy in February 1919, the Lords Com- 
missioners of the Admiralty published the 
following statement in the Press :— 

*' On the retirement of Admiral Sir 
Berkeley Milne, it has been brought to 
the notice of the Board that this officer's 
professional reputation is stated to have 
suffered in the opinion of the public owing 
to its being generally supposed that he 
did not take up the Command at the Nore 
— ^to which he had been appointed before 
the War — or receive further employment, 
in consequence of events connected with 
the escape of the German ships Goeben and 
Breslau in 1914. This is not the case. 
The Admiralty at the time issued an official 
statement, which remains on record, 
exonerating Admiral Milne from blame, 
and intimating that the general disposi- 
tions and measures taken by him were 


fully approved. It has been solely owing 
to the exigencies of the Service that the 
Admiral has not been further employed." 

It will be observed that the " Official 
History " was published (March 1920) a 
year after the Admiralty had issued their 
statement quoted above. During that 
year, Sir Julian Corbett states that the 
Admiralty had read the proofs of the book, 
in which certain alterations had been made 
in accordance with the suggestions of the 
Admiralty. These circumstances make it 
even more diflficult to understand the 
action of the Board in permitting the 
publication of the inaccurate statements 
and injurious reflections contained in the 
" Official History," and the subsequent 
refusal of the Admiralty to take steps to 
have the inaccurate statements corrected 
and the adverse comments based on those 
inaccurate statements deleted. 

The Prime Minister has stated that the 
cost of the " Official History of the War " 
is defrayed out of public money. The 


public have, therefore, the right to demand 
some guarantee of the accuracy of that 
work, and a clear definition of the responsi- 
bility attaching to its authorship. As 
matters stand, the Ministerial and official 
statements on the subject are as follows : — 

1. The book is entitled, outside, " Official 
History of the War." 

2. Inside, the Lords Commissioners of 
the Admiralty state that " they are in no 
way responsible " for the author's *' reading 
or presentation of the facts as stated." 

3. In his preface, the author, Sir Julian 
S. Corbett, states that " for the form and 
character of the narrative, as well as for 
opinions expressed, the author is alone 

4. The First Lord of the Admiralty, on 
18th February, 1920, stated in the House 
of Commons that the first volume of the 
Naval History of the war was " being 
compiled under the directions of the Com- 
mittee of Imperial Defence." 


5. The Prime Minister, on 1st Norember, 
1920, stated in the House of Commons 
that Sir Julian Corbett was " responsible 
as author " to the Committee of Imperial 

6. The Prime Minister, on 1st November, 
1920, also stated in the House of Commons 
that Sir Julian Corbett " is writing the 
official account of the yvav fromt?ie Admiralty 
point of view.^'' 

7. In the course of a letter appearing 
in the " Nineteenth Century and After " 
(November 1920), Sir Julian Corbett states 
that he submitted the proof of his work 
to the Admiralty, and that the proofs, 
** after careful examination " were 
** returned to me with a few suggestions 
as to the wording of certain passages." 

To sum up. The book is official. It 
is not official. It is compiled under the 
directions of a Cabinet Committee. It 
is written from the point of view of the 
Admiralty. The proofs are submitted to 


the Admiralty and are altered by the 
Admiralty. The Admiralty are not respon- 
sible. The author is alone responsible .^ 

^ From Hansard (House of Commons), 28rd June, 

" Naval Operations of the War. ' 

" Mr. Lambert asked the First Lord of the 
Admiralty whether, in Volume I. of ' Naval Opera- 
tions of the War,' Sir Julian Corbett had access to 
all the documents in the possession of the Admiralty 
relating to the events described ; whether the proofs 
of this volume were submitted to, and approved 
of, by the Admiralty; and whether the Admiralty 
accepts responsibility for the statements contained 
in this history based on official documents ? 

" Mr. Long : It will be sufficient for me to quote 
the statement which faces the title page of the volume, 
namely — 

" * The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty 
have given the author access to official documents 
in the preparation of this work, but they are in no 
way responsible for his reading or presentation of 
the facts as stated.' 

" The Admiralty saw the proofs and agreed to 
pubUcation ; but, as stated, do not accept responsi- 

It will be observed that, although Mr. Lambert 
asked if Sir Julian Corbett had access to " all " 
the docimients, the First Lord in his reply mentioned 
" documents " only. 


The truth is, that the Prime Minister, 
having stated in Parliament that the 
" Official History of the War : Naval 

From Hansard (House of Commons), Iflth 
December, 1920. 

" Battle of Jutland. 

*' Sir J. Craig : All the material, including Captain 
Harper's record, will be placed at Sir Julian Corbett's 
disposal, and this undertaking will be interpreted 
in the widest possible way. The Admiralty have 
no control over the use which Sir Julian Corbett 
makes of his material, and, therefore, so far as they 
are concerned, it is open to him to publish the 
material in whatever form he thinks proper. 

" Rear- Admiral Adair : Will the right hon. 
gentleman say whether it is the case that, although 
this record is handed to Sir Julian Corbett, the 
Admiralty refuses all responsibility as to what he 
publishes ? 

" Sir J. Craig : All we possess in regard to what 
I have enumerated will be handed to Sir Julian. 
We have no control over him after that. 

" Sir R. Hall : Will the book published by Sir 
Julian Corbett be regarded as the Official Naval 
History of the War ? 

" Sir J. Craig : I am not quite certain of the terms 
under which Sir Julian was asked to write the 
history of the War. He was asked to do so by 
the Committee of Imperial Defence, and not by the 


Operations," Vol. I., is written from the 
Admiralty point of view, the assertion 
that the comments in the book represent 
only the opinions of Sir Julian Corbett, 
is no longer tenable. Unless the Prime 
Minister's statement is contradicted as 
formally as it was made, the public are 
entitled to accept every statement in the 
book as authorised by the Board of 
Admiralty, and every comment thereon 
as expressing the views of the Board of 

The author, Sir Julian S. Corbett, is 
at least responsible for omitting to consult 
the late Commander-in-Chief in the 
Mediterranean in respect of important 
events occurring under his command. 

" Viscount Curzon : Are the Admiralty going to 
allow these counter publications without any 
revision whatever? 

" Can Sir Julian publish what he Ukes ? 

•' Sir J. Craig : I understand that the Committee 
of Imperial Defence, when it entered into the 
agreement, imposed certain conditions, but I am not 
quite sure what they are." 


While Sir Julian Corbett was preparing 
his material I was entirely at his service, 
and I should have had much pleasure in 
giving him any assistance in my power. 
Sir Julian Corbett's statement, contained 
in his letter published in " The Nineteenth 
Century " (November 1920), that his nar- 
rative was "tested for accuracy of detail 
by senior officers who were engaged in the 
operations," is the more surprising. It 
was certainly never submitted to me 
before publication ; and the results of the 
" testing for accuracy of detail '* after 
publication appear in the foregoing pages. 
I have already said that, upon my dis- 
cussing the matter with Sir Julian Corbett, 
he was unable to afford me any explanation 
or to suggest any redress. 

Sir Julian Corbett also states in the same 
letter, that he " was given the freest 
possible access to the secret files which 
contain the telegrams that passed between 
the Admiralty and the Admiral, as well 
as to the instructions. . ." It is therefore 


clear that although Sir Julian Corbett was 
cognisant of my instructions relating to 
war with Austria, in the passages on p. 69 
of the " Official History," in which he 
refers to my dispositions made at the time 
when I was informed that a state of war 
existed between Austria and Great Britain, 
those instructions, whether by inadvertence 
or design, were ignored by the historian. 
It is equally clear that in this case, as in 
others, the Admiralty allowed a false 
implication to pass. If, in the judgment 
of the Admiralty, or of Sir Julian Corbett, 
or of both, it was inadvisable to state in 
what those instructions consisted, there 
can have been no indiscretion in stating 
either that they existed or that they were 
fulfilled. The absolute necessity of 
instantly fulfilling Admiralty orders con- 
cerning my dispositions in the event of war 
with Austria did, in fact, govern the whole 
situation. The consequent delay enabled 
the Goeben and Breslau to make good their 


That the telegram announcing a state 
of war with Austria was despatched, was 
evidently an accident. Such accidents 
occur in war as in peace. 

I have accurately narrated the course 
of events, and the public are now enabled 
to form a just estimate of the episode. 
It remains for the authorities to ensure 
that the '* Official History of the War : 
Naval Operations. Vol. I." is so cor- 
rected as to accord with the facts 
contained in the Admiralty records. 

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